Tag Archives: General Electric

Big Companies Should Not Try to Act Like Startups

Big Companies Should Not Try to Act Like Startups

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

In 2009, Jeffrey Immelt set out on a journey to transform his company, General Electric, into a 124 year old startup. Although it was one of the largest private organizations in the world, with 300,000 employees, he sought to become agile and nimble enough to compete with high-flying Silicon Valley firms.

It didn’t end well. In 2017, problems in the firm’s power division led to massive layoffs. Immelt was forced to step down as CEO and GE was kicked off the Dow after 110 years. The company, which was once famous for its sound management, saw its stock tank. Much like most startups, the effort had failed.

Somewhere along the line we got it into our heads that large firms can’t innovate and should strive to act like startups. The truth is that they are very different types of organizations and need to innovate differently. While large firms can’t move as fast as startups, they have other advantages. Rather than try to act like startups, they need to leverage what they have.

Driving Innovation At Scale

The aviation industry is dominated by big companies. With a typical airliner costing tens of millions of dollars, there’s not much room for rapid prototyping. It takes years to develop a new product and the industry, perhaps not surprisingly, moves slowly. Planes today look pretty much the same as ones made decades ago.

Looks, however, can be deceiving. To understand how the aviation industry innovates, consider the case of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. Although it may look like any other airplane, Boeing redesigned the materials within it. So a 787 is 20 percent lighter and 20 percent more efficient than similar models. That’s a significant achievement.

Developing advanced materials is not for the faint of heart. You can’t do it in a garage. You need deep scientific expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and the resources to work for years—and sometimes decades— to discover something useful. Only large enterprises can do that,

None of this means that startups don’t have a role to play. In fact one small company, Citrine Informatics, is applying artificial intelligence to materials discovery and revolutionizing the field. Still, to take on big projects that have the potential to make huge global impacts, you usually need a large enterprise.

Powering Startups

All too often, we see large enterprises and startups as opposite sides of the coin, with big companies representing the old guard and entrepreneurs representing the new wave, but that’s largely a myth. The truth is that innovation often works best when large firms and small firms are able to collaborate.

Scott Lenet, President of Touchdown Ventures, sees this first-hand every day. His company is somewhat unique in that, unlike most venture capital firms, it manages internal funds for large corporations. He’s found that large corporations are often seen as value added investors because of everything they bring to the table.

“For example,” he told me, “one of our corporate partners is Kellogg’s and they have enormous resources in technical expertise, distribution relationships and marketing acumen. The company has been in business for over 100 years and it’s learned quite a bit about the food business in that time. So that’s an enormous asset for a startup to draw on.”

He also points out that, while large firms tend to know how to do things well, they can’t match the entrepreneurial energy of someone striving to build their own business. “Startups thrive on new ideas,” Lenet says “and big firms know how to scale and improve those ideas. We’ve seen some of our investments really blossom based on that kind of partnership.”

Creating New Markets

Another role that large firms play is creating and scaling new markets. While small firms are often more agile, large companies have the clout and resources to scale and drive impact. That often also creates opportunities for entrepreneurs as well.

Consider the case of personal computers. By 1980, startups like Apple and Commodore had already been marketing personal computers for years, but it was mostly a cottage industry. When IBM launched the PC in 1981, however, the market exploded. Businesses could now buy a computer from a supplier that they knew and trusted.

It also created fantastic opportunities for companies like Microsoft, Intel and a whole range of entrepreneurs who flocked to create software and auxiliary devices for PCs. Later startups like Compaq and Dell created PC clones that were compatible with IBM products. The world was never the same after that.

Today, large enterprises like IBM, Google and Amazon dominate the market for artificial intelligence, but once again they are also creating fantastic opportunities for entrepreneurs. By accessing the tools that the tech giants have created through APIs, small firms can create amazing applications for their customers.

Innovation Needs Exploration

Clearly, large firms have significant advantages when it comes to innovation. They have resources, customer relationships and deep expertise to not only invent new things, but to scale businesses and bring products to market. Still, many fail to innovate effectively, which is why the average lifespan of companies on the S&P 500 continues to decline.

There’s no reason why that has to be true. The problem is that most large organizations spend so much time and effort fine-tuning their operations to meet earnings targets that they fail to look beyond their present business model. That’s not due to any inherent lack of capability, it’s due to a lack of imagination.

Make no mistake, if you don’t explore, you won’t discover. If you don’t discover you won’t invent and if you don’t invent you will be disrupted. So while you need to focus on the business at hand, you also need to leave some resources un-optimized so that you can identify and develop the next great opportunity.

A good rule of thumb to follow is 70-20-10. Focus 70% of your resources on developing your present business, 20% of your resources on opportunities adjacent to your current business, such as new markets and technologies and 10% on developing things that are completely new. That’s how you innovate for the long term.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog and previously appeared on Inc.com
— Image credit: Pixabay

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The Role of Change Management in Driving a Successful Digital Transformation

The Role of Change Management in Driving a Successful Digital Transformation

GUEST POST from Chateau G Pato

Digital transformation has become a critical imperative for organizations across industries. With the rapid advancements in technology and the changing expectations of customers, businesses must continuously reinvent their strategies, processes, and offerings. However, for any digital transformation initiative to succeed, one essential element cannot be overlooked: effective change management. In this thought leadership article, we will explore the significance of change management in driving successful digital transformations, backed by two compelling case studies.

Case Study 1: Netflix’s Transformation from DVD Rentals to Streaming Powerhouse

Netflix is a prime example of a company that embraced change management to fuel its transition from a DVD-by-mail rental service to a digital streaming giant. In 2007, following the introduction of their streaming service, Netflix faced several barriers, including resistance from customers accustomed to DVDs and the need to negotiate licensing agreements with content providers. Recognizing the need for comprehensive change management, Netflix’s leadership team implemented a multi-pronged approach:

1. Visionary Leadership: Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, championed the vision for digital streaming, communicating it clearly to the entire organization. This ensured that everyone understood the need for change and were aligned with the company’s transformation goals.

2. Employee Empowerment: Netflix focused on enabling and empowering their employees during the transition. They invested heavily in employee training programs to enhance digital skills and actively encouraged risk-taking and innovation. By embracing the change from within, employees played a pivotal role in driving the company’s digital transformation forward.

3. Customer-Centricity: To ensure customer buy-in, Netflix carefully considered its user experience design. They conducted extensive user research, actively solicited feedback, and adapted their platform based on user preferences. This customer-centric approach allowed Netflix to seamlessly steer customers towards digital streaming and make it a preferred mode of content consumption.

By combining visionary leadership, employee empowerment, and customer-centricity, Netflix successfully navigated the challenges associated with their digital transformation. Today, they are the unquestionable leader in the streaming industry.

Case Study 2: General Electric (GE) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

GE, a renowned conglomerate, embarked on its digital transformation journey by embracing the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). To remain competitive in an evolving landscape, GE recognized the need to leverage technology to transform its products into intelligent, connected devices. With this objective in mind, GE adopted a change management strategy that involved the following key elements:

1. Change Communication: Clear and consistent communication played a critical role in GE’s digital transformation. The company established a robust communication framework to educate stakeholders about the benefits of IIoT and its potential impact on various departments. This transparency helped allay concerns, build support, and foster a shared understanding of the transformation’s goals.

2. Skills Development: GE prioritized the development of digital skills across its workforce. Recognizing that digital transformation necessitates significant shifts in day-to-day operations, the company offered training programs, mentorship, and reskilling initiatives for its employees. By equipping employees with the necessary skills, GE ensured that they were well-prepared to adapt to new technologies and play vital roles in the company’s digital future.

3. Agile Methodologies: Embracing agile methodologies, GE adopted a phased approach to its digital transformation. By breaking the transformation into manageable increments, the company could continuously evaluate progress, iterate on solutions, and drive organizational alignment. This iterative approach minimized disruption and ensured a smooth transition to the digital landscape.

Through effective change management strategies, GE successfully modernized its offerings, created new revenue streams, and positioned itself as a leader in the IIoT space.

Conclusion

The case studies of Netflix and GE highlight the importance of change management in driving successful digital transformations. From visionary leadership and employee empowerment to customer-centricity and robust change communication, these organizations demonstrated the power of change management in achieving their digital goals. As businesses increasingly undertake digital transformation journeys, they must prioritize change management efforts to navigate complexities successfully, foster organizational readiness, and secure long-term success in the digital era.

SPECIAL BONUS: The very best change planners use a visual, collaborative approach to create their deliverables. A methodology and tools like those in Change Planning Toolkit™ can empower anyone to become great change planners themselves.

Image credit: Unsplash

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Change Leadership

Developing the Skills and Mindset to Drive Successful Change

Change Leadership: Developing the Skills and Mindset to Drive Successful Change

GUEST POST from Art Inteligencia

Change is inevitable in today’s fast-paced business environment. Effective change leadership is crucial for organizations to navigate through complex transformations successfully. Change leaders are those who possess both the skills and mindset necessary to drive successful change initiatives. In this thought leadership article, we will explore the essence of change leadership and delve into two notable case studies that exemplify the power of developing these skills and mindset.

Case Study 1: Apple Inc. – Steve Jobs’ Reinvention

Apple Inc., under the visionary leadership of Steve Jobs, serves as a prime example of change leadership. After a period of stagnation and declining sales in the late 1990s, Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 to revitalize the company. He recognized the need for a significant change in the company’s product portfolio and overall strategy.

Jobs’ first step was to shift Apple’s focus from a hardware-centric to a user-centric approach. He emphasized simplicity, innovation, and design as the core principles guiding the company’s product development. Jobs leveraged his mastery of storytelling to communicate this shift effectively, inspiring both his employees and customers.

Internally, Jobs fostered a culture of relentless passion and dedication to excellence. He instilled a sense of urgency and encouraged free-thinking across all levels of the organization. By developing a shared vision and empowering his team, Jobs successfully led Apple’s transformation into a global leader, revolutionizing industries with iconic devices like the iPhone and iPad.

This case study highlights the importance of change leadership in driving profound organizational transformations. Creating a clear vision, inspiring a sense of purpose, and fostering a culture of innovation are all critical components that change leaders must possess.

Case Study 2: General Electric (GE) – Jack Welch’s Cultural Revolution

Another exemplary case study of change leadership is Jack Welch’s tenure as CEO of General Electric (GE) from 1981 to 2001. Welch recognized that GE needed a significant cultural overhaul to thrive in a rapidly evolving business landscape.

He initiated a relentless commitment to enhancing GE’s operational efficiency, relentlessly pushing for change throughout the organization. Welch championed the concept of “boundaryless” behavior, encouraging open communication and collaboration across diverse teams and departments. He saw the need for a flatter hierarchical structure that empowered employees to make decisions and take ownership of their work.

Welch implemented the highly influential “Rank and Yank” policy, where the bottom-performing 10% of employees were consistently removed. This critical decision, while controversial, created a strong sense of urgency and accountability, ultimately fostering a culture of high performance and continuous improvement.

Under Welch’s leadership, GE transformed from a bureaucratic conglomerate into a lean and agile powerhouse, positioning itself at the forefront of various industries.

This case study emphasizes the significance of a change leader’s ability to create a culture that embraces continuous improvement and empowers employees. Driving change requires not only a strategic vision but also the cultivation of a positive and supportive environment that incentivizes innovation and risk-taking.

Conclusion

Change leadership is imperative for organizations seeking successful transformations in today’s business landscape. By examining the case studies of Apple Inc. under Steve Jobs’ reinvention and General Electric’s cultural revolution led by Jack Welch, we observe the critical attributes of effective change leaders. These attributes include a strong vision, effective communication, inspiring storytelling, fostering a culture of innovation, and empowering employees. Through developing the necessary skills and mindset, individuals can become change leaders capable of driving successful change, shaping the future direction of businesses, and fostering growth and innovation.

Bottom line: Futurology is not fortune telling. Futurists use a scientific approach to create their deliverables, but a methodology and tools like those in FutureHacking™ can empower anyone to engage in futurology themselves.

Image credit: Pixabay

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